Industry News

West Coast Port Congestion is Improving

May 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

UTi-logo-Colors.jpg“West Coast port congestion is improving.” This statement can be heard from just about any of the many freight forwarders in the business. Yet supply chain professionals’ frustrations continue, fueled by the ongoing chassis shortage and trucker strikes affecting the West Coast.

It is without a doubt that the ports on the West Coast have improved from the state they were in. After a year of steadily worsening delays, we are beginning to see freight flow normalize. However, backlogs still exist. While one container may move in four days, another on the same vessel may be loaded to the stack of backlogs in the container yard. And in late April, several trucking companies began to experience strikes over employee status and wages.

These issues have created significant disruptions and continue to force supply chain professionals to consider moving freight via alternative options such as the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports. The overwhelming question from supply chain professionals now is, how can this be managed?

At the moment, we recommend continuing to use ocean freight services and to request termination at the port. This allows the forwarder to recover the freight and assign the load to a driver in their network. That not only enables more control to their client’s door, but ultimately the client will have that control as well. The delivery agreement remains between the client and their forwarder – not the steamship line. “Door” moves are typically referred to as Door to Door services in which the steamship lines maintain control until the freight arrives to the client’s door or end destination. If their contracts are with the rail or a trucking company whose employees are on strike, your freight will be delayed.

It is critical to plan ahead and to be aware of the Required on Site (ROS) Date. When does the freight need to be in hand? Sharing this with your forwarder can help them navigate the supply chain waters and ultimately ensure that the mode of transportation is right for you and your budget.  Other options exist, and not all air freight has to be expedited. This could be considered as a solution while in the planning process.

It is also essential to understand what needs to go; meaning, if there is inventory stock that is a hot seller, know the timing of peak for the products and consider air freight as an option for shipping. This is by no means is a recommendation for moving all shipments by air. The idea is to move what really needs to move by the most certain and least expensive means available. Deferred air services can mean that the forwarder has the ability to consolidate and ship quantities of the client’s freight with other freight to maximize the capacity available, meet the ROS date and, while air freight in general may be more expensive, it will eliminate additional costs.

If ocean freight is selected, there are options to go through the East Coast Ports and trans-load. While planning for the upcoming peak season, you should realize that the “new normal” for West Coast ports means shipping could take up to three months. Keeping this in mind will help ensure that your company’s products are on store shelves while your competitors’ may be still floating on a container somewhere in the deep blue sea.

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